Familiar curves of the downhill road
home, bodies swaying in unison
with steep corners; the quickening
of movement inside: a great fish turns
and glides away, an allegro low in the torso.
On the lounge room floor, a rectangular
patch of streetlight, Friday night
sounds floating upwards, lightness
of a weekend descending.
Constant growl of an unseen ocean
in the background; in the foreground
a swelling belly, navel beginning
to protrude. Unable to stop stroking
this cocoon, almost coveting a home
like the grey fantail’s: a deep cup of green
moss and lichen, felted with spiders’
web and plant down, the most delicate
cradle for a featherless babe.
Overnight storm, the spotted gums
hoary with rain, muted greys
staining the pitted honeycomb rocks:
the world rolls and turns inward
where hard surfaces press out,
elbow joints sharpening, a shell-
like carapace inside moss-lined
softness. Smallness of stones stuck
fast in the smoothed-out cavities
of a shell’s twisted inner skeleton,
a trickle of water building into spume
that crashes against crimson cliffs.
where walls meet
in the town there had been earth that met ditch & weed, swamp that met grassy verge; where the footpath meets the external wall of the chicken shop adjoining the border of the bank building,
was a place for standing & for leaning, a place congealed in the meeting of the walls & concrete paving
where wall hits wall hits gate, what’s gone when the shopping centre masks the last location of small houses in a row, leaving no space for recall; the site of the loss of a ring near the dead-end,
the thick scrub that grew before the small house, before its inhabitants breathed; the previous caretakers moving swiftly on
toughened feet, the varied syllables of the crested bellbird
in the chopping & dispersing of the mountain, what’s there
where glass doors slide noiselessly aside, where the odour of
grease traps seeps through the newer place that buried interlinked lanes, on top of soil that made its own contours,
where the city squats stoutly & weights heavily over it
In the mesh of a tonal language, there’s sound slipping over furtive vowels; with it, meaning dragged crookedly in its wake, a worn hem coming loose.
Mouths learning to stitch together new vowels and soar through the glide of extra diphthongs, with the unexpected bark of geckos at night, their slight figures
softly brown against fluoro-lit walls. The word for always makes me think of eels boiled eggs wooden combs; tongues curling in the strongest green tea of the north.
The pulse puckers around the curved bitterness of tiny white eggplants; from within an embrace you’re reading snippets of vocab lists over one shoulder:
to forget to know to earn to teach: double-jointed enchanters ascending miniature tapered ladders that reach to hidden chambers.
My dearest, the belly and the heart overlap here; the same word able to mean both, and both together making one’s heart of hearts. In it I relish the astute implications of a small pair of words that mean
to lounge around at street corners, and readily identify with feeling uncomfortable in someone else’s house, as I do
at times, though they say feel that it’s your own – and this on my first visit. I hope, dearest, that you are not
sad with melancholy, a word I found that crosses into boring and dull, which you never are. Often two girls will ride the same bicycle with their feet on the pedals
together, two left and two right placed exactly
in position: we could be like that, though you might laugh at the image. In this city, flowers are sold with their roots still attached, seeming so much more alive.
I maintain a slight distrust for my smallest dictionary
with its old-fashioned primness – to look daggers at someone – and propensity to invent English words, which makes me
nervous about its Vietnamese. Nonetheless I rely on it when the salmon-coloured volume is too heavy. I struggle
with the many diphthongs and think of your mouth forming them with grace, and carelessly giving away the words I like to imagine were meant for me. Last time I wrote about the summit of the mountain, above the clouds, where
girls pose like pretty dolls in mirrored arrangements, and I long for your unmannered body, and the way you might catalogue the bunches of flowers you bought here. But in this language
of few tenses I remain lashed to the present, and yours always
(originally published by Vagabond Press : tidemark )